So the thing with meditation is that in our cultural context (at least in this part of the world), it has its roots in Buddhism philosophy. I guess at this point of time, I should come out and reiterate that at least in my perspective, Buddhism will always be more of a philosophy than a religion.
Opinions aside, my learnings started with Theravada meditation which focuses mainly on allowing the mind to “go on a journey” and in the process gain deeper understanding of the world and the self. There are many different forms of meditation out there due to market segmentation and other marketing tactics. I happened to chance upon Theravada meditation and Buddhism by chance so, why not?
Coming back to the point about meditation being steeped in Buddhism roots. Many of the principles that guide Buddhism are related to the process of meditation. This is in itself a challenge, though I would say that it is a more of a pleasant challenge than a frustrating one. Many principles are mind-blowingly hard to grasp and seems as if one has to actually experience life-changing events themselves to gain enlightenment. Concepts like giving unselfish love – without attachment puzzles me as to how it can be done. Mundane and noble acts like writing a novel to educate the general public can be taken as a form of craving or wanting – but by our standards they are acts worthy of praise. Perhaps it will really take a lot of time and experiences for these concepts to settle in.
The first week was the toughest in actually getting used to sitting still and disciplining the mind to do what you want it to do. Meditation can seem to be a very relaxed activity, seeing as how the generic stock photos always portray the peaceful faces of people in the classic Sukhasana (cross legged) sitting pose. However, it takes a lot of focus and awareness to properly undergo meditation. I found myself distracted by sounds, smells, sensations and most of all, thoughts.
It takes a while but I eventually got acquainted with my mind and we had a happy agreement of sorts. There are counting exercises where we would be required to count the breaths we take so as to maintain our mindfulness and the now, so I would do the counting and if the mind wanders, I project my inner self as an avatar gently chiding the mind (which has its own avatar) and rein it back into the present. Sounds fucking childish but I guess if it works it ain’t stupid.
I eventually took to using a meditation app (yeah tell me about it) but as inappropriate as some modern takes on tradition goes, I would have to say that this is one of the better ones. I used an app called Headspace which, for good measure takes you through a 10 day program at the start. The feeling of having a voice guide you through the mental exercises was so much more encouraging and easier on the mind. There are many useful concepts which, although not congruent with Theravada meditation, are still quite easy to grasp and agreeable. One of the concepts which I found useful was to imagine the emotions and thoughts we feel as cars speeding down a highway. Typically, our self will be seated deep in one of the cars, speeding down this emotional super highway. The aim is to get out of the car, not get involved and just observe it from the side of the road as all these emotions and thoughts fly past.
I would say that so far, meditation has been quite an interesting “hobby” of sorts. I refuse to call it anything else because unlike others, I have not made it a part of my daily routine and truth to be told, I took it up as a means to take my mind off certain issues. People tend to get too attached to new hobbies or other interesting stuff that they might want to be seen doing but meditation is definitely not something like that. One of the key tenets is to never seek any results or objectives of sorts and I think that is particularly relevant to me right now.
Always remember to appreciate the journey lest we get lost in the process.